Conflict in Mozambique Expands

Conflict in Mozambique Expands

The ongoing Cabo Delgado insurgency might have reached a new level as Rwandan soldiers faced off against Islamic militants near the Mozambique-Tanzania border.

A string of recent successes has prompted more nations to join the fray. South African contractors have already engaged militants on several occasions, in support of Mozambique’s security forces. The Rwandan forces, however, are in country specifically for combat purposes. The government is welcoming foreign forces with open arms, believing that they could be the key to enhanced security. Others, however, worry that an influx of foreign fighters could escalate the conflict and lead to reprisals. “Mozambique needs help and that is a definite,” remarked South African expert Jasmine Opperman. “But will the presence [of the international troops] translate into an overall defeat for the insurgency … I don’t think I can be optimistic. If there is an over-reliance on an unaccountable military, the causes will remain.”

Currently, the Southern Africa Development Committee plans to send 3,000 troops to Mozambique. Tanzanian, Botswanan, and Angolan troops are already in country. Several elite units from Zimbabwe are under mobilization orders.

Foreign Presence in Mozambique

Very quietly, a religious and natural resources war is erupting in Africa, and the East African nation of Mozambique is basically on the front line.

These two global forces have swept over Africa before, mostly in the late 1800s Scramble for Africa. European powers gobbled up as much territory as they could as quickly as they could. Rudyard Kipling’s controversial poem, The White Man’s Burden, gave the political Scramble for Africa a religious face which made it easier to sell. Furthermore, then as now, many African countries had considerable natural resources. There is oil in the North, and all manner of natural resources, including oil, gas, timber, gold, and diamonds, in much of the rest of Africa, 

The new religious/natural resources landscape is a bit different. The natural resources are the same, but there are equality problems. Mostly due to corruption and conflict, many African nations, such as Nigeria, are simultaneously the richest and poorest countries in the world. That inequality invites revolution, which in this case, is Islamic revolution. ISIS and its ilk are firmly in place in many areas. 

The only real difference between the Scramble for Africa and the modern conflict is the battleground. Most of the focus is on Central Africa. This region, which includes Mozambique, is not only wedged between the Islamic North and the Christian South. It is also one of the richest natural resource regions on the continent.

Hence, there is a great deal of foreign interest in Mozambique, which is a rather obscure African nation that most Americans probably could not find on a map.

The Southern Africa Development Committee is a NATO-like organization of over a dozen states in southern and central Africa. It was originally formed in the 1970s as a response to the white minority government in South Africa. Today, it is primarily a socioeconomic empowerment organization. It is also interested in security, which is why it is interested in Mozambique, which is also a member state.

It is unclear whether SADC troops will bring stability or more instability to Mozambique. The organization has a less-than-stellar human rights record. Critics charge that the SADC too often looks the other way when such issues arise.

Sympathy probably motivates non-SADC countries like Rwanda and Portugal. Rwanda knows what it is like to be torn apart from the inside. The country is still recovering from mid-1990s genocide. Portugal, which has several hundred troops in Mozambique, is the country’s former colonial master. Just like parents like to see their children succeed, mother countries like to see their former colonies succeed, at least in most cases. 

American Contractors in Mozambique

Mozambique might be on the front lines of the religious/resource war in Africa, but as far as the Americans are concerned, it is not on the front line of the Global War on Terror. That may be changing, as U.S. special forces recently played a brief military advisory role in Mozambique. We all know that “military advisors” sometimes do more than just offer advice.

Some contractors are already in Mozambique as well, doing what they do best. Contractors teach government security forces anti-insurgency techniques. This training does more than give under trained troops the tools they need to cope with groups like Ansar-al-Sunna (a/k/a Al Shabaab to the locals). This training also gives troops the confidence they need to take on such militants.

Contractors serve in other critical support roles as well, such as maintenance and security. With contractor support, Mozambique and its allies have a fighting chance of ending, or at least containing, the Cabo Delgado insurgency.

Injury Compensation Available

This work is extremely dangerous to say the least. Militant ambushes are just a small part of this risk. The greater danger comes from the nature of the work itself. Therefore, the Defense Base Act applies to almost all combat and non-combat injuries.

The victim must generally be a contractor for the DoD, State Department, or another U.S. government agency. Some contractors for some sympathetic foreign governments are also entitled to DBA benefits. American citizenship, or even American residence, is not a requirement. That is good news for the many foreign nationals who serve as translators and in other capacities.

Furthermore, the victim must work in an overseas war zone. “Overseas” usually means any territory not part of the fifty states. Cuba (Guantonimo Bay) and Guam are overseas territories for DBA purposes. “War Zone” means there is a U.S. military presence in that territory. That presence could be a single military liaison in an embassy. 

Finally, there must be a nexus between the deployment and the injury. Basically, a nexus is an indirect connection. Let’s look at a couple of examples.

Assume Julie was on her morning jog when a suicide bomber devastated a local market. Although the jog was at best indirectly related to her deployment, the DBA probably applies. The same thing could apply if Ramon fell in the airport on his way to Mozambique.

DBA benefits usually include lost wage replacement and medical bill payment. Most victims receive two-thirds of their Average Weekly Wage for the duration of their temporary disabilities. The medical bill payment benefit includes all reasonably necessary medical expenses. That includes not only doctor bills but ancillary expenses, liek transportation costs and prescription drugs.

The Defense Base Act is designed to get private military contractors back to work as soon as possible. That outcome benefits everyone involved, including the victim, employer, and nation where s/he was deployed.

For more information about the DBA process, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.